Life in the Marketplace of Ideas
How Jesus Upends Everything
Erik: For me, it's about abiding in Him, not striving to be something. Resting in who He is and who He has made me to be, and saying, "Jesus, I'm ready to echo you."
Why focus especially on communication?
Erik: First of all, much of our professional lives have centered on communication: speechwriting, marketing, presidential addresses, entertainment and social cause campaigns. If we were going to be apprentices to Jesus in the midst of that, we had to think seriously about how to reflect Jesus in how we approached communication. Communication is central to life for every one of us, not just the professionals. The way we love our wives, how we speak to our children, the depth of our friendships, and the "always-on" social space where we tend to determine our value and impact on the number of friends, followers, comments, and retweets.
You've both worked with some of the best and brightest, from the White House to Madison Avenue. Why did you pick Jesus as the model?
Erik: It came about organically. I think we began this book as a challenge to ourselves. It seems that readers now find it very meaningful also, but what initially impelled me into this was my own personal question: is what I see around me really the best way to love others? I find Jesus very subversive. He flips every assumption on its head. I like that he does the unexpected, especially in what He says and how He says it.
Jedd: We've both been Christians most all of our lives. But we have to confess that at times we'd seen Jesus as having more relevance to the next life than to this one. That's foolishness. The more we've studied and reflected upon his way of communication, the more we've been blown away—from how he used stories and questions, to the way he made himself so fully present to others, to the transparency that one almost never sees among leaders today. This in no way diminishes His identity or redemptive mission. In our view, it only affirms their truth.
You have a chapter titled, "The Rarest Commodity in America." What is this?
Jedd: Attentiveness. The speed and noise of life today makes it almost impossible to give ourselves wholly to the person in front of us, even for five minutes. Jesus' way cuts in the opposite direction. He, too, faced dizzying busyness, demands on his time, urgency, and noise. Yet he continually put a premium on attending fully to the person in front of him: the bleeding woman, Zacchaeus, the children his disciples wanted to chase away. When we follow him in this, our communication becomes downright subversive to the false gods of our era.
Erik: Sorry, I didn't hear the question. I was looking at my Instagram while listening to Spotify in between composing an important email for work. (Laughing.) You get our point . . .
You argue that one of the most important ways to give our communication a true "authenticity" is to "tell of both beauty and brokenness." What do you mean by this?
Erik: Christians, in particular, seem drawn to communicating only about shiny, happy things. Our testimonies imply, "Everything was bad and now everything is dandy." Our words come across like a Thomas Kinkaid painting. In contrast, both Jesus' words and life continually intertwined joy and pain, light and darkness. The rest of the Bible, especially the Psalms, does the same. Apprentices to Jesus are continually attuned to the fact that most every story and idea, if conveyed with authenticity, will carry a strong dose of both the lovely and the broken, blessing and ache. My wife says it best, "We are all a mess." It's true, and a great starting point for any conversation.
Dr. Timothy Dalrymple is the Associate Director of Content at Patheos, and writes weekly on faith, politics, and culture for Patheos' Evangelical Portal. Follow him at his blog, Philosophical Fragments, on Facebook or on Twitter.